FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JACKSON, Miss – The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Foundation (ACLU-MS) received a two-year one million dollar grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address excessive discipline in schools and disparate punishment of young men of color by assessing current practices and developing a statewide model of fair school discipline practices fostering conditions for success. This project aims to dismantle the systems of structural and institutional racism and bias by identifying the structures that perpetuate the current practice of disparate implementation of discipline and engage these systems to create positive and supportive institutions and pathways for young men of color.
“This generous grant will allow us to develop and establish a community based model systems approach to address school discipline and criminalization of young men of color,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi.
Kimberly Merchant, Director of Educational Opportunities of the Mississippi Center for Justice stated “We are excited about our partnership with the Sunflower County Consolidated School District (SCCSD) and the SCCSD P-16 Parental Engagement Council. Together we will connect YMOC to systems, institutions and pathways designed to help young men succeed.”
The partnership aims to develop a statewide uniform disciplinary policy that will reduce disciplinary rates; increase the capacity of the SCCSD staff to provide additional support for positive behavior intervention and monitoring of discipline data and implementation of district policy; and increase the knowledge base and capacity of the SCCSD P-16 community engagement council.
Extreme and destructive approaches to school discipline have devastated the students and families of Mississippi, harmed its teachers, members of law enforcement, and community members, and caused profound damage to the economic health and well-being of the State at large. Mississippi’s Black students are hit the hardest by harsh discipline practices. Statewide, they are three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their White peers, with an even greater disparity in some school districts. There are no successful schools that suspend, expel, and refer large numbers of students to law enforcement. Yet, there are no statewide prescribed standards for school discipline that ensure that the codes of student conduct in Mississippi’s school districts meet basic standards of fairness and common sense. Such harsh and extreme punishment works at cross-purposes with the State’s school improvement efforts and educators’ efforts to promote teaching and learning in healthy and productive ways.
This system change approach will engage the key stakeholders in the educational, law enforcement, judicial, community and media systems. It will provide a model for Mississippi to promote policies that create effective schools, stronger communities, and fiscal health.
About the ACLU of Mississippi
The ACLU of Mississippi is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization founded in 1969 that defends and expands the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all Mississippians guaranteed under the United States and Mississippi Constitutions, through its litigation, legislative and public education programs. It is an affiliate of the national ACLU.
About the Mississippi Center for Justice
The Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys, community leaders and volunteers, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.